Cam McCormick

Talkin' with the Ducks: Emphasis on tight ends in Oregon's system

Talkin' with the Ducks: Emphasis on tight ends in Oregon's system

Welcome into a new running NBC Sports Northwest feature; Talkin’ with the Ducks. Joining us on the second edition is the top-ranked guard in the Pac-12 Conference, senior Shane Lemieux.

[WATCH Talkin' with the Ducks: Justin Herbert more than a "quiet guy who can sling the rock"]

Lemieux, who has started 38 straight games at left guard, has been impressed with the increased role of Oregon's tight ends in blocking schemes. In the video above, he picks Justin Herbert and CJ Verdell as the biggest threats on the Duck offense this season. 

[WATCH: Oregon's offensive line dinners are legendary]

Oregon football prediction: Cam McCormick back with a vengeance

Oregon football prediction: Cam McCormick back with a vengeance

There are still 100 days until Oregon football kicks off the 2019 season against Auburn on August 31, 2019. But, why not publish a prediction?

The Ducks have six options at tight end but I predict you will be hearing Cam McCormick’s name ringing through Autzen Stadium a lot this season.

McCormick won the starting spot last year but suffered a season-ending left leg injury in the first game of the season. The Bend, Oregon. native is back in action and poised to have a breakout junior season. He returned for Oregon’s spring football and practiced with the first team.
Expect the 6-foot-5, 260-pound pass catcher to be a big (literally) weapon for quarterback Justin Herbert. As the Ducks’ largest tight end, McCormick has NFL size and tools to make an impact this season.

After surgery and eight months of rehab, McCormick said his leg feels stronger than ever.

“I’m going to give every little, last ounce I have,” McCormick said during UO spring football.

McCormick excels at blocking and is physically imposing at the point of attack in the run game. In the passing game, he has great hands, is tough to take down, with surprising speed.

As a redshirt freshman in 2017, McCormick played in all 13 games. Although he has just three starts and seven career receptions, he showed off his big and deep-threat play ability against Arizona, with a season long 35-yard catch.

How can the Ducks make the most of Herbert’s last season at UO?  Offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo alluded to some tinkering with the Oregon offense for 2019.  The Ducks are adding wrinkles to their running game while balancing the gift of Herbert’s big arm. McCormick’s return adds a big target for that big arm.

Takeaways from Oregon football Hillsboro scrimmage: changed physiques, freshmen highlights and Duck “celebrities”

Takeaways from Oregon football Hillsboro scrimmage: changed physiques, freshmen highlights and Duck “celebrities”

Oregon football loaded up the buses for a rainy drive from Eugene to Hillsboro Stadium for a half practice, half traditional 11-on-11 scrimmage in front of over 2,000 die-hard Duck fans who spent their Saturday with former Duck Marcus Mariota.

Former Heisman Trophy winner Mariota and former Duck Ifo Ekpre-Olomu supported the team from the sidelines while Oregon fans craned to get their first peek at the nation’s top recruit Kayvon Thibodeaux, among others.

It’s been four months since Oregon beat Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl and some players definitely hit the winter strength and conditioning program (Coach Cristobal calls it the "Fourth Quarter" offseason program) hard. Some of the biggest physical changes I noticed was to the offensive linemen; particularly senior Shane Lemieux and senior Jake Hanson who seem to have toned up and added lower body strength. Junior nose guard Jordon Scott, who started all 13 games last season, definitely has slimmed down. Junior tight end Cam McCormick, won the starting job last August but was injured in the season opener, appears to be 100 percent physically ready and a force to be reckoned with.

Of course it was all eyes on the newcomers, 10 early-enrollee freshmen in Oregon’s highest-ever rated recruiting class.

It was my first look at Thibodeaux, who is not your typical 18 year old. The freshman was on the first-team and is poised to make an impact this season. Freshmen wide receivers Josh Delgado and Mycah Pittman participated in returning punts with Brenden Schooler and Travis Dye. Tight end Patrick Herbert provided a highlight of the day; a touchdown catch in a one-on-one drill.

Not a freshman, but still a highlight was Penn State graduate transfer Juwan Johnson, who literally stood out among the wide receivers at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. He made some terrific catches from redshirt-freshman quarterback Tyler Shough. Shough, who did not attempt a pass last season, seems to have secured the back-up quarterback position and made some excellent passes.

The longest touchdown of the 11-on-11 scrimmage came via quarterback Justin Herbert to Darrian Felix for 50-yards that brought Oregon fans to their feet.

The Ducks have six more spring practices remaining before they host the spring game at Autzen Stadium on April 20.

Oregon Spring Football PT. 1: Injury updates, coaching changes & true freshmen

Oregon Spring Football PT. 1: Injury updates, coaching changes & true freshmen

Can you feel spring creeping in? To me, crisp air, flowers blooming and birds chirping means one thing… Oregon football spring practices are about to begin. The first of Oregon’s 15 spring practices will begin this Saturday. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal divulged injury updates, coaching changes and true freshmen who have enrolled early. Caution, the list of early enrollees from Oregon's historic 2019 recruiting class may make you count down the days until opening kickoff. 

(Part two; How Cristobal plans on fixing UO’s dropped passes problem and how the defense will change under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos)

 

INJURY UPDATE FOR SPRING PRACTICES

The good news: Tight end Cam McCormick, who suffered a broken bone in his left foot last season, will be a full participant and is expected to be a breakout star this season.
The bad news: Three offensive linemen will be out or limited; senior Calvin Throckmorton (recovering from Red Box Bowl ankle injury), junior Sam Poutasi (recovering from offseason right knee surgery), redshirt freshman Justin Johnson (recovering from left shoulder surgery).

Two starting defensive ends; Austin Faoliu will be out for a week (recovering from minor knee injury) and Cristobal expects Gary Baker to miss “about half” of spring practices (recovering from ankle injury).

Quarterback Cale Millen, a highly anticipated true freshman who enrolled in January, will be "eased in" over the course of the first week of practice due to a foot injury.

Kicker Adam Stack “had some issues with a hernia," according to Cristobal and is recovering.

 

COACHING CHANGES

New additions: Jovon Bouknight as wide receivers coach, Ken Wilson as linebackers coach and Andy Avalos as defensive coordinator. Avalos will also coach the STUD ends, which is an edge rusher with a similar role to a standup defensive end/outside linebacker. 

New roles for existing coaches: Special teams coordinator Bobby Williams will take over coaching the tight ends (previously coached by offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo).
Subtractions: Former Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt and Oregon parted ways, agreeing on a separation package that will pay him up to $2.5 million.

 

TRUE FRESHMAN WHO ENROLLED EARLY

Oregon’s 2019 highest-rated recruiting class didn’t just make history; it filled position needs with top talent that could make an impact as early as the 2019 season.

In January, six true freshmen enrolled early in classes to jumpstart their academic and football careers at Oregon. Four more Ducks will enroll in April to be able join the last 10 spring football practices. Cristobal said those 10 early enrollees are in the mix for playing time. "It’s going to show in the rep count that they have," Cristobal said. 

January enrollees, already on campus:

  • Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux; top-rated high school player in the country, the highest ranked commitment in UO program history
  • Quarterback Cale Millen; the No. 2 player in the state of Washington who competed in the Elite-11, a quarterback-focused camp held by Nike
  • Wide receiver Josh Delgado; top five wide receiver in the state of Florida
  • Offensive lineman Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu; Top-ranked junior college player in the country by JCGridiron.com
  • Linebacker Ge'Mon Eaford; Rated the No. 10 outside linebacker
  • Linebacker Dru Mathis; Rated the top linebacker and the No. 12 overall junior college prospect by JCGridiron.com

April enrollees:

 

Oregon spring football part 2 is on how Cristobal plans on fixing UO’s dropped passes problem and how the defense will change under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos.

Doug Brenner and his Rhabdomyolysis: Why he's suing Willie Taggart and the University of Oregon

Doug Brenner and his Rhabdomyolysis: Why he's suing Willie Taggart and the University of Oregon

Wednesday, former Oregon football player Doug Brenner filed a suit against the NCAA, former Oregon football coach Willie Taggart, strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde, and the University of Oregon for injuries sustained during workouts in January, 2017, shortly after Taggart was hired.

Brenner is seeking $11.5 million in damages.

"I would ask you, how much is your health and your body worth?" Brenner asked in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Northwest. "My health and my body will be impacted by this for the rest of my life. My kidneys will never be the same."

Why take legal action now? I had the opportunity to sit down with Brenner and ask him some important questions on the forefront of this lawsuit.

Brenner detailed that his health issues led him to the doctor a few months ago, when he learned the severity of his kidney damage through a nuclear renal scan. The statute of limitations in Oregon for personal injury and medical malpractice claims is two years; since the workouts ensued in January of 2017, this month is the end of his window. 

The former offensive lineman was one of three players hospitalized as a result of the workouts, each suffering from rhabdomyolysis.  This is a condition where the body “eats its own muscles,” creating toxic elements which go through the body causing damage.

Rhabdomyolysis in athletes is a preventable and potentially fatal condition.

What does rhabdomyolysis feel like? What does he remember about those drills? Was he properly hydrated?  What NCAA changes does he hope will ensue as apart of this lawsuit? And maybe the biggest question, did Taggart lack control or ignore blatant red flags?

"Oh absolutely (he lacked control)," Brenner said. "That's why I am pursuing this. I want to prevent this from happening to future players. The NCAA has guidelines in place to avoid things liek this from happening but they aren't enforcing it and every year tons of kids across the country are being hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis."

According to the 18-page suit filed in Multnomah County circuit court, the permanent damage to Brenner's kidneys reduced his life expectancy by about 10 years.  

[FROM 2017: Willie Taggart starts his tenure at UO with the wrong kind of publicity]

In the interview, Brenner illustrates the January workouts. He details that the UO medical staff acknowledged that the workout went beyond the student athletes’ natural limits after the first day and on the second day, brought in oxygen tanks on to go along with the trash cans, for vomiting, that lined the workout room.

“Oderinde not only was willing to put student athletes through nonevidence-based physical punishment regimens, but also did not carry industry required certification to be a strength and conditioning coach,” the suit claims.

It also states that Taggart told players when he was hired that he and the new coaches were going to focus on discipline in strength and conditioning and they were "going to find the snakes in the grass and cut their heads off."

[WATCH FROM 2017: Taggart and his staff off to a rough start]

Taggart brought with Oderinde to Oregon from South Florida and currently still retains him on staff at Florida State. Oderinde was suspended without pay for a month by Oregon after the players were hospitalized and Taggart issued an apology.

After hospitalization, Brenner returned to the team to play in 2017. Brenner's senior season ended after he had hip surgery in October 2017 after he played seven games for the Ducks.

"I'm a proud Duck and I loved my time playing football at Oregon," Brenner said. "It was a tough choice to do this."

Sam Poutasi, another offensive lineman, is now also suing. 

Cam McCormick, the third Duck hospitalized, has opted against suing

"I respect my teammates immensely and their very difficult decision to take that path," McCormick said. "I look forward to putting this unfortunate situation in the past, and moving ahead."

Watch the video interview above to hear from Doug Brenner in his own words. 

Cam McCormick out for season with broken fibula

Cam McCormick out for season with broken fibula

Oregon tight end Cam McCormick broke his fibula during the Ducks' season opener against Bowling Green and is out for the rest of the 2018 season. 

The sophomore out of Bend, Ore. earned the starting role out of Oregon's fall camp. Last season, McCormick played in all 13 games and finished with six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. 

"He will be sorely missed not only as a player but a teammate," Cristobal said. "Guys certainly love him. The hospital was a packed place for him in support of him." 

McCormick injured himself near the end of the first quarter and was carted off the field. He caught one pass for negative-two yards in Oregon’s 58-24 win over Bowling Green.

With McCormick out, Jacob Breeland is listed as the starter in Oregon's second game of the season against Portland State. Last year Breeland led the team with five touchdown receptions, catching 18 passes for 320 yards. Behind him is senior Kano Dillon, a South Florida graduate transfer, and junior Ryan Bay. 

McCormick suffered the first season-ending injury for Oregon, and at the tight-end position that was already relatively thin on depth. In Oregon's power-tempo offense multiple tight ends were used in different formations. This will undoubtedly make a big impact of the UO offense. 

The only other injuries to come out of Saturday were concussions to linebacker La'Mar Winston Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir during strong collisions. Cristobal said they are both being "checked out" in Oregon's "strict and regimented" concussion protocol. 

Oregon TE Jacob Breeland might fulfill the promise Colt Lyerla failed to realize

Oregon TE Jacob Breeland might fulfill the promise Colt Lyerla failed to realize

EUGENE - Oregon redshirt sophomore Jacob Breeland isn't allowing an injured right hand to get in the way of playing like the team's best tight end. 

"It kind of sucks but I'm just going to go out there and do as much as I can and play," he said. 

The results have been impressive. 

"He hasn't dropped a ball," UO coach Willie Taggart said, stating that Breeland's protected hand makes it appear like he might be getting ready to participate in the upcoming bout between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. "So we might let him use that all year long out there."

Breeland's right hand has been wrapped in a cast as a precautionary measure. But the Ducks can't afford for Breeland to take time off. They need him. In a big way. Thin at wide receiver with very little tight end depth, Breeland could end up being one of the team's more vital pieces on offense this season. 

When it's all said and done, Breeland could live up to the promise once showed by former UO tight ends, Colt Lyerla and Pharaoh Brown. Lyerla could have become the greatest tight end in program history but off-the-field troubles derailed his career. Brown came close to equaling Lyerla in ability but overcame maturity issues just in time to suffer a severe leg injury in 2014 that altered his career's trajectory. 

Breeland could accomplish what both Lyerla and Brown did not. He is that guy on this roster and could become the first Oregon tight end to reach elite status since David Paulson in 2011. 

Breeland, listed at 6-foot-5, 241-pounds, matches Lyerla and Brown in size at the same age, and is only getting bigger. He isn't the athletic freak both Lyerla and Brown were but is a better overall athlete than Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt, two quality senior tight ends who last season split time with Brown. 

Breeland has exceptional body control and natural running instincts after the catch. He also doesn't mind sticking his nose into the mix and blocking, something he will be asked to a lot of in a more physical rushing attack than Oregon has employed in previous years. 

Breeland finished the season with six receptions for 123 yards as the fourth tight end behind three seniors he said he watched and learned from. 

"They taught me a lot," Breeland said. "A lot about reading defenses...they just pushed me to be better, basically,"

Good thing, because Breeland stands as the lone tight end with any practical experience. Still, Taggart said he doesn't have much concern about the position. 

"I'm really impressed with all of our tight ends from spring to now," he said. 

The backup is redshirt freshman Cam McCormick, a three-star recruit a year ago out of Bend. Then there are sophomores Ryan Bay and Matt Mariota. 

"Are they where we need them to be? No," Taggart said. "But they are a lot better than what they were when we first started off. And to be honest with you, I feel good about putting any of those guys into the game and running our offense."

Taggart's offense will rely heavily on the tight end position, especially in the running game.

"That's one of the main things we're going to do," Breeland said. "(Taggart) said we're going to run the ball a lot so be ready to block."

Breeland said he has spent a lot of time working on reading defensive fronts, knowing who to block on certain plays and mastering his footwork and ability to gain adequate pad level on defenders. 

South Florida last season, under Taggart, saw its leading tight end - Mitch Wilcox - make just 12 receptions. Oregon's senior tight end trio last year combined for 65 receptions.  

While Breeland said he expects the overall role of the tight end to be different in this offense compared to the previous attack, he still expects to catch plenty of passes. 

"We're having some special plays for us to come open for touchdowns," Breeland said. 

Whatever the role he is asked to play, Breeland says he is ready to perform. 

"I'm going to go out there and play as hard as I can," Breeland said. "And if they are going to use me a lot then I'll be there to do my best and catch the ball if I need to, block if I need to and do it all."

He certainly is going to need to if the Ducks' offense is going to succeed. 

Oregon coach Willie Taggart addresses workouts, strength coach following controversy

Oregon coach Willie Taggart addresses workouts, strength coach following controversy

Oregon coach Willie Taggart characterized the workouts his team conducted last Friday that led to three players being hospitalized as "warm-ups" designed to get the team ready for the more difficult tasks ahead during winter conditioning.

They were not, Taggart said, "military-style," treacherous and dangerous workouts that many painted them out to be after the story, first reported on Monday by The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, became a national topic of conversation and sparked discussion and conversation over player safety in college football.   

Redshirt freshman tight end Cam McCormick, redshirt senior offensive lineman Doug Brenner and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Sam Poutasi were sent to Springfield PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend last Friday evening after experiencing symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis hours after completing a 6 a.m. workout during winter conditioning. 

The narrative left Taggart exasperated. The last thing, he said, that he and his staff would ever do is endanger players. What occurred, according to Taggart, was an unfortunate incident that has been blown out of proportion.  

“People are convinced that we’re (dumb) and don’t care about our players,” Taggart said. “We want our fan base to know that we do.”

The controversy that found its way into newspapers and onto websites and television networks across the nation abruptly ended what for Taggart had been about as good of a first month on a job as anyone could ever hope for. 

Taggart, hired on Dec. 7 to replace Mark Helfrich, hit the recruiting trail running by landing commitments within weeks, he assembled what appears to be a dynamic coaching staff, and he successfully rebranded the program, replacing "Win the Day" with "Do Something."

Then, in as much time as it takes to do a push up, Taggart found himself being forced to defend the workout regimen in question put forth by his strength and conditioning coach, Irele Oderinde.

Oregon on Tuesday suspended Oderinde for a month, and Taggart and UO athletic director Rob Mullens released statements in which Taggart took responsibility for the situation while Mullens emphasized that the University holds the well-being of its students in high regard.

All three players are expected to recover. Brenner has already been released. What happened was certainly unfortunate. The question is, was anyone at fault?

--- Introductory workouts

Oregon began winter conditioning last week. Workouts conducted by Oderinde were held last Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. 

The idea, Taggart said, was to ease the players out of winter break with workouts that didn't consist of running or weight lifting. Oregon missed a bowl game last season for the first time since 2004. That meant that returning players had an extra full month off from structured football activities that they weren't used to having. Their season ended with a loss at Oregon State on Nov. 26.

Typically Oregon's seasons end around the first of the year with a bowl game appearance. 

“We knew our guys weren’t in shape so we didn’t put them in the weight room or run them, or anything” Taggart said. “We’re going to build up to that. It all started with pushups and sit-ups.”

Oderinde used the same workouts under Taggart at South Florida and Western Kentucky. Oderinde played at WKU when Taggart was an assistant there from 1999 through 2006. Oderinde later worked as a strength coach at WKU during Taggart's tenure as the Hilltoppers head coach. By the time Oderinde made it to USF under Taggart in 2014, the strength coach had nearly 10 years of experience, according to the Bulls' website, with previous stops at West Virginia, South Carolina and Notre Dame

The workout sessions, which included planks, were designed to last 45 minutes with the team broken up into three groups with start times of 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.  Workouts were extended if players didn't use proper technique and/or didn't follow directions, according to Taggart. Punishment involved up downs as a group even if one player botched the workout.

“The whole team is held accountable,” Taggart said. “Then they go back to pushups and sit-ups and do it right. It’s more about just teaching guys the details and how we’re going to do things the right way.”

During last year’s 4-8 season, which led to the firing of Helfrich, players slacked in some areas, namely preparation and attention to detail. Taggart has told the team that those days are over.

Reestablishing accountability, however, does not involve cruelty, according to Taggart. 

Players, Taggart said, were given breaks and allowed to get water whenever needed. Then they could resume the workouts when they were ready to do so.

“No one expected everyone to make it and do them all,” Taggart said.

For that reason, according to Taggart, coaches did not order players to continue working past their limitations. Only vocal encouragement was involved. 

“Coach O doesn’t even work that way,” Taggart said. “He’s not even that kind of guy. He doesn’t yell, he doesn’t do any of that stuff.”

Many players, Taggart said, took advantage of the ability to take breaks when they reached their max. In fact, Taggart said, coaches knew that many players wouldn’t finish the workouts. Some assistant coaches and trainers were present for the workouts. 

“We had some guys struggling,” Taggart said. “We had some guys sit out and not finish.”

--- Overdoing it

The scene involving Brenner, Poutasi and McCormick, Taggart said, did not involve the players passing out on the field and having to be rushed to the hospital. 

According to Taggart, the hospitalized players participated in a 6 a.m. session on Friday (the fourth day of the workouts) then went to classes, and carried out the rest of their day before returning to the football complex for dinner.

It was then that Taggart said the three players complained about not feeling right and that their urine was dark, a symptom of Rhabdomyolysis. The condition, described on Webmd.com, is a rare and serious side effect caused by the breakdown of muscle tissue to the point where it could lead to permanent paralysis, and can cause serious kidney damage. Symptoms include muscle aches and dark-colored urine.

Extreme muscle strain can be a cause and it can become more dangerous if there is more muscle mass to breakdown. Brenner is listed at 320 pounds. Poutasi is 315. McCormick is 240.

Those suffering Rhabdomyolysis can experience muscle pain and have trouble moving their limbs. A product of muscle breakdown is creatine kinase, an enzyme found in the muscles. which can increase in the blood stream. Normal CK levels for a male over 18 is between 52 to 336 units per liter of blood. A marathon runner can reach into the low thousands. According to sources, the players hospitalized had CK levels well over 60,000.

Taggart praised head trainer Kevin Steil for recognizing the problem and responding the way that he did by examining the players and then having them taken to the hospital where they could receive intravenous fluids. Taggart visited them at the hospital.  

One potential cause of what happened is that the players were not properly hydrated before the workouts. Also, the players, pushed themselves too hard.

“A lot of that comes with wanting to impress the new coaches,” Taggart said. “But all of the trainers were out there. It wasn’t like coach ‘O’ was out there just beating them down. You’ve got certified trainers out there with them.”

Trainers are required by the NCAA to be beholden to the department and not a specific team. This prevents coaches from hiring their own trainers and then influencing them to overlook workouts or injuries that might put an athlete’s health at risk.

One veteran player, speaking anonymously, said he enjoyed and completed the workouts. He added that they were clearly designed to test the will of the players but stated that there was no pressure to complete the tasks beyond one’s limits. If a player reached their max, they could stop. 

Taggart said it was made clear to the team that players were not going to win starting jobs in January and to take care of themselves as they push through a new regimen of workouts they were not used to.

“We want you to go hard but not to a limit that you’re going to kill yourself,” Taggart said.

While some players backed off, Brenner, Poutasi and McCormick did not.

“These guys were tough guys and wanted to show the coaches,” Taggart said. “That’s probably what was part of the problem. They didn’t want to be the guy that quit. There were other guys that quit and they didn’t want to so they probably pushed themselves to a limit that they shouldn’t have.”

Moving forward, Taggart said his staff must do a better job of making sure players are properly hydrated, something he said was routinely emphasized, and explaining to players that they shouldn’t feel pressured to push themselves too far beyond their physical limits. 

A narrative floating around that the hospitalized players were too “soft” or "out of shape" bothers Taggart. 

“Those guys finished the workout,” Taggart said. "Others did not. The fact that those guys finished like that, it says lot about them. I hate that they had to go to the hospital, but it says a lot about them.”

Some fans on social media have stated that the hospitalization of players following the first week of winter workouts further proves that Ducks were slacking under Helfrich. Taggart doesn’t agree.

“That’s a bunch of baloney,” Taggart said. “People are going to have their opinions. It’s just different philosophies on workouts. I hate it because when they call our guys ‘soft,’ they are calling me soft too.”

Nobody, Taggart said, is being labeled as anything other than trying to get in shape for a long season ahead.

--- #FREECOACHO

Taggart said players seemed to enjoy the workouts and were excited to get back out there for more. That statement is supported by their reaction to the controversy through social media.

“They are ticked off because they were enjoying the workouts,” Taggart said. “Even the guys that were in the hospital.”

Several players took to Twitter to support Oderinde, whom some refer to as “Coach O," and started a #FreeCoachO hashtag. 

Junior cornerback Ugo Amadi Tweeted that the workouts weren't nearly as difficult as the media made them out to be. 

Redshirt junior safety Mattrell McGraw also defended Oderinde.

https://twitter.com/mattmcgraw_/status/821188300777996288

“The response that they have given, to me, says a lot,” Taggart said. “They wouldn’t say that if it were someone that didn’t have their best interest at heart and was trying to kill them. He’s one of the best guys you’ll ever meet. He’s not military. He’s just a good dude.”

Taggart has gotten good results from Oderinde in the past.

“I trust him,” said Taggart. “I love what he did with our football team at South Florida and I know what he could do with our guys here. But now a good guy, a good strength coach is being portrayed as somebody just whipping our kids’ butts and that’s wrong.”

Former USF players certainly appear to support Oderinde, according to a recent report in the Tampa Bay Times.

Players said that nobody they ever played with under Taggart and Oderinde ever ended up in the hospital after a workout.

Former Bulls offensive lineman Mak Djulbegovic said to the Tampa Bay Times that Oderinde isn't “gonna make you do something that's not reasonable."

"Sure, it'll be very difficult," Djulbegovic continued, "but if you don't take the right steps to be ready for these things, you might wind up in the hospital as these kids found out. Hopefully they learned their lesson."

The goal is to make the team bigger and stronger beyond what they have been used to at Oregon. It’s not that the Ducks didn’t seek size under former football strength coach Jimmy Radcliffe, but the emphasis at many positions had been more about speed and stamina given the pace of the offense under former coaches Chip Kelly and Helfrich. 

Many UO players, sources say, are excited about the prospects of getting bigger, which could help increase their NFL potential. 

“Guys are saying they want to get bigger, they want to get stronger,” Taggart said.

Taggart, who declined to discuss the details surrounding Oderinde's suspension, said his workout philosophy is no better or worse than what was being done under Radcliffe, it’s just different. Clearly Oregon experienced great success in the recent past.

While a couple of player parents wondered if the workouts might have been over the top since three players went to the hospital, some told CSN, anonymously, that they and their sons didn’t have a problem with them and were excited to continue working with Oderinde.

A department source said there is no doubt in his mind that the coaching staff cares about the players and their well-being. He said that they talk about it as a group.

The ridicule, Taggart said, has come up on the recruiting trail.  Taggart said parents of recruits have asked assistants about what happened and he believes opponents have used the hospitalizations as fodder for negative recruiting.

“All they hear is a ‘military-style workout,’" Taggart said, "and so now everybody is saying ‘they don’t know what they’re doing, they are hurting the kids, they don’t care about the kids’ welfare,’ and it’s not like that. And again, that’s why our players were so upset because they are putting a negative spin on it.”

In the end, Taggart believes that the players will perform better after going through his staff’s plan, just as players did at Western Kentucky and South Florida.

"We believe in what we're doing," Taggart said. "It’s one of those unfortunate situations that we all can learn from."

 

Oregon 2017 Outlook - TEs: Loss of three seniors opens doors

Oregon 2017 Outlook - TEs: Loss of three seniors opens doors

Oregon's worst season (4-8) since 1991 (3-8) led to a coaching change. Yet, the Ducks' cupboard is hardly bare for new coach Willie Taggart. We will take a position-by-position look at what the new coaching staff will have to work with while trying to turn things around in 2017.

Other entries: Quarterbacks; Running backs, Wide receivers, Offensive line, Defensive line, Linebackers, Defensive backs

Today: Tight ends.

Key losses: Pharaoh Brown, Johnny Mundt and Evan Baylis all exited as seniors forcing the Ducks to completely reload at this position. 

Projected 2017 starter: Jacob Breeland, RSoph., (6-5, 240). 

Key backups: Cam McCormick, RFr., (6-5, 240), Ryan Bay, RSoph., (6-4, 235). 

What we know: Not much. Breeland, a three-star recruit in 2014 (Rivals.com), caught six passes for 123 yards last season, with a long of 63 yards at Washington State. He certainly appeared to have the athleticism and skills to become an impact tight end, but he remains a mystery. 

McCormick, a three-star recruit in 2016, redshirted and is the only other scholarship tight end on the roster. 

What we don't know: Could a true freshman earn instant playing time? Quite possibly. The Ducks don't currently have a tight end committed to the 2017 class, but will have four-star prospect Josh Falo in town for a visit on Jan. 28, according to The Oregonian

As a side not, Matt Mariota, younger brother of former Oregon quarterback Matt Mariota, has moved from linebacker to tight end. 

Final word: From a receiving standpoint, Oregon should be just fine with Breeland in the lead role. Whether Oregon has a consistent run blocking tight end on the roster might be the bigger concern.  

Position grade: C-minus. There's some talent to work with but zero in the way of proven starting talent.  

Next up: Wide receivers.